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York tea company LPV International's plans for expansion
A YORK tea company has its eyes on the prize as it enters an investment competition to help it expand.
LPV International, the company behind the LuLin Teas brand, hopes to invest in new machinery to enable it to reduce the cost of making its trademark cube-shaped tea bags, so the tea can be stocked in supermarkets.
Hans Verhoosel and partner Amy Gallagher, who used to run York cafe, La Place Verte on Skeldergate Bridge, diversified into supplying Chinese tea in 2011, seeing a growing market for speciality teas.
The company then won free advertising and mentoring support from The Press through its Local Business Accelerators competition and expanded into its own premises in North Duffield, near Selby.
Mr Verhoosel said they had already reached some major milestones. “We wanted to supply a major food hall and we got Harrods. We wanted to supply a five-star hotel and got the Cedar Court Grand. We wanted a Michelin-starred restaurant and now we’re working with Noble Restaurants in London which are owned by Robert de Niro.”
He said they had lots of interest from retailers, and were now now working with CenFRA, (the Centre for Food Robotics and Automation) to explore ways the manufacturing may be automated to reduce costs.
The winners of the investment competition at Venturefest will win a prize worth about £38,000 worth of business support services, but Mr Verhoosel said they hoped to attract investment from business angels.
“When I enter a competition I’m in it to win it, but it will also raise our profile. My partner and I have funded the business ourselves, but automating our process needs to be on a larger scale.
“The younger generation, 25 to 35 year olds, want more green, herbal and whole-leaf teas and the interest is growing at ten to 12 per cent a year. In countries like Dubai it is even growing at 50 per cent. So we feel we are in the right market segment,” he said.
He said the company, which employs four people, would grow employing more sales and production staff in the Selby area if they were successful.